Sunday, December 04, 2011

Dedicated to Tall Ones

I just finished reading about Derek Boogaard in the New York Times. They have a great 3-part article and multimedia piece on his life. There are many issues in this story, but the one that jumped out at me was the story of the tall kid who reluctantly became a hockey enforcer.

The tall kids. They are pushed early to specialize in certain sports and positions. Assumptions are made about their personality--that they automatically like to and want to physically intimidate people. More often than not, they tend to be more like the stereotype of the gentle giant. Trust me, most of these kids have the same insecurities we all do as young people and the pressure they have upon them to be "large & in charge" in their sport weighs heavily on them.

People gawk. Referees don't give them a break. Coaches are frustrated that their big kids lack confidence and the ability to use their size effectively.

They are referred to as "soft" or "lacking mental toughness" when preventable overuse injuries and pain from unnecessary over-training forces them to sit out. Or they quietly push through the pain to keep up with smaller teammates and put themselves at risk for career-ending injuries because they don't want to appear weak in front of their coaches or parents. The adults in charge don't understand that these tall bodies cannot handle the same volume of pounding that smaller frames easily tolerate in practice.

They are not given the time to become comfortable in their bodies--to become physically competent and develop fundamental movement skills.

They are not given the opportunity and tools to develop all-around fundamental sport-related movements that will allow them to move smoothly & skillfully like their smaller teammates. They are pigeon-holed into standing at the net as the middle blocker or on the low block with their back to the basket.

They are expected and allowed to get by year after year on their height alone.

Who needs to work on the foundations of running, jumping, landing, playing defense? Who needs good body awareness, good postural alignment, good flexibility and appropriate strength? Who needs to be taught how to move with aggressive speed and power? Who needs to be educated about the importance of taking care of your joints now so that you can walk, sit and sleep without spending the majority of your adult years in constant pain and/or addicted to pain medication from the pursuit of elite sport?

These kids do.

Most of all, someone who cares needs to stop and ask these kids if they are having fun and if this is really what they want to be doing with their life and time.

Kind of by accident, I've started to do something about it over the last 4 years with my small stable of giraffes. They have taught me so much. I love working with them and showing their coaches and parents what is possible with patience, time and purposeful work on the basics. I love helping them blossom and find their place in pursuit of elite sport; or figure out that their place is somewhere other than elite sport.

It is my passion and my mission to be the resource for tall athletes, their parents and their coaches in the Midwest and wherever help is needed.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Everybody Squats

Everybody squats. Well, except in this country. We forget how to squat as we move into adolescence. Then we hurt our knee, hip or back and the therapist teaches us to do wall slides with a Swiss ball against the wall.

Who is responsible for starting and perpetuating this worthless facade of leg and core strengthening? I'd like to have a word with you, whoever you are.

To preserve and maintain back health, we must learn to use our legs; triple flexion then triple extension. We must be aware of our body in space and how our spine is positioned in relation to our hips.

It's not about static core strength for me. It's about awareness, alignment, mobility and dynamic strength of the lower extremities.

This guy is learning how to use his legs to support his bodyweight in space. He is learning to be confident with his legs after herniating two discs over the summer. He can now pick up stuff from the ground without assistance. He now has freedom and mobility. And in his particular situation, the squatting movement helps relieve long-standing radicular pain that once dominated his day.

This is the type of functional strength a physical therapist should teach a patient. This is how we need to use our legs. The ability to squat is a physical competency everyone should master.

No we don't need to squat a house, but we do need to learn how to lower & raise our bodies, within the context of gravity, in an effective manner. Start with a sit to stand from a chair, then progress to a med ball squat. Learn to hold the bottom position and feel it. Feel the floor; learn to push it away. Then if appropriate, use a Hexlite bar, weighted vest or barbell to increase the resistance. Teach the basics and then give the patient movement problems to lift and solve.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Growing Up - Peter Gabriel

This song is in my head these days. 2011 has been a year of growing up.

RIP Uncle Vasily

How most American's remember Alexseyev

The man who was weightlifting for so many years has passed away. Vasily Alexseyev died this past Friday in Germany of heart issues. He was 69.

I was fortunate to meet the man in person at the 2003 World Championships in Vancouver. Harvey Newton and I were in the walking through the venue when this famous wall of a man came toward us. (That's the very cool thing about going to an Olympics or World Championship--you will see so many former greats strolling the venue or having a drink in the hotel lobby!)

Harvey was kind enough to introduce me to him. Alexseyev was very much a gentleman. I am not sure what came over me, but I had the irresistible urge to pat him on that enormous belly. As I did, Vasily Alexseyev winked and put his index finger to his lips to say "shhhh, don't tell anyone" and then he smiled.

The world's most famous weightlifter had, arguably, the world's most famous belly to ever tumble out of a tiny red singlet.

He set 80 world records during his career and was the first man to clean & jerk over 500 lbs in competition. For more information about Vasily Alexseyev and his career, check out this 44 min documentary.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What are methods without principles?

Sorry I've been away for quite awhile.  Things have been busy and to be honest, I just haven't felt like writing.  The business has been growing and most of my energy has been put toward my athletes and patients. I have certainly had lots of thoughts and I hope to share them and write on a more consistent basis in 2012. For today, I'd like to share a blog I stumbled upon via Twitter.  Nick Grantham has some words of wisdom for everyone. Check out his post and blog here. It is based on this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, October 14, 2011

Athlete-Centered Preparation

Don't fall for the ads shouting about sport specific training. It's really about athlete-centered preparation.

It's not about playing more tournaments and more games. It's about the developing the physical abilities and fundamental movement skills essential to a variety of sports and health.

They need foundations, not hype. They need variety, not early specialization. They need to be adaptable, not pigeon-holed into a single position in a single sport.

Young people shouldn't be trained like small adult athletes. They deserve time, patience, structure and mentoring. They need to learn what it means to be an athlete and the importance of taking care of their physical health, whether or not they become professional/elite athletes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Open House Next Saturday, September 17!

I will be hosting an open house at my new facility next Saturday, September 17 from 11 am to 4 pm. Please stop by and say hello!

Iron Maven Physical Health & Performance
10772 Indian Head Industrial Blvd

St. Louis, MO 63132

Thursday, September 08, 2011

A Personal History of Strength As It Relates to Sport

Vern Gambetta has a great 3-part blog series on the evolution of his understanding and integration of strength training. I encourage everyone to read it, as he points out some of the pivotal people, ideas and events in the history of strength training in the US and abroad.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Many of you newbies out there do not have a good grasp of the history of strength training in the US, particularly before the evolution of the internet and currently popular web-based resources. Do yourself a favor and look up some of the original resources Vern lists.

As for me, I am lucky enough to have a new gem to peruse this week. Carl Miller sent me a copy of his new book The Sport of Olympic Style Weightlifting: Training for the Connoisseur.

Monday, September 05, 2011

OT: Johnny Quest Awesomeness

Jonny Quest Opening Titles from Roger D. Evans on Vimeo.

Thanks to BoingBoing for pointing out this sweet stop-motion ode to a classic cartoon. I wasn't around for the original prime time airing of Johnny Quest, but I sure did enjoy the Saturday morning reruns in the 70s.

There are days when I could use Race Bannon's help.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Seeing is Believing

From a parent of one of my high school boys this morning:
Yeah those eyes are slowly opening. In his gym class he has really noticed the difference between his technique you have taught him and the others. I think that was a major milestone for him. He is seeing the benefits and rationale behind proper body position and technique. You have his ear right now. He is trusting you.
There is a method to my madness. They just have to have the patience and persistence to do what the others often don't have the will to do. But first they have to trust and believe in what we are doing.

Being a Good Role Model & Mentor

One of my favorite things is when my athletes send me pictures of the dinners they have cooked or their grocery carts.

It usually takes a while--especially with high school boys. They have to first care about eating and then learn to accept responsibility for preparing their own food. The first step for many guys is making scrambled eggs or their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for their lunch or after school snack. This is the fist step in their evolution.

Food shopping and real cooking are not usually high on their list of fun things to do, especially when mom and dad are still around. Not even close to being on the radar.

But then something changes--usually is it going away to college--and WHAMMO, whole foods, lean meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts suddenly become part of their vocabulary and shopping list. They send me pictures of giant salads and stirfrys.

They very excitedly tell me they start to feel the benefits of eating better and they embrace the opportunity to make nutrition part of their training program. They brag about the junk food they've left behind.

I cannot tell you how happy this makes me! If I don't do anything else for these kids, I can at least help them discover the joy in shopping for and cooking their own food and life-long value in eating well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Earning the Right

My friend Kelvin Giles likes to emphasize that athletes must earn the right to progress. I am in full agreement with him.

My kids have to earn the right to progress, especially with the squat. And with very tall, thin athletes, I need to be even more patient to develop the mobility and infrastructure needed to squat with quality movement. I teach my athletes to have respect for the movement, as it is one of the more important things they can do to develop total body strength and power.

We don't chase numbers on the barbell when squatting. We always thoroughly warm up and work up to the work set. Just like 6' 10" Eric Moeller is doing in the picture above.

Every weightlifting coach I have worked with emphasizes the same thing. There is a purpose and a context to the intensity and volume of each set within a training session and within that particular training cycle.

Unfortunately, many others chase numbers on the barbell in the weightroom. You can see their follies all over YouTube. But there are also some very good examples of squat technique and warm up. One of the most impressive is this video of Caleb Williams, former powerlifter-turned-weightlifter, training for the 2006 IPF World Championships in Norway. In weightlifting, Caleb competes in the 69 kg weight class (152 lbs), so I assume in this video he is competing at 67.5. The dude squats 500 lbs x 6 weighing around 150 lbs, with only neoprene knee sleeves, weightlifting shoes and a belt. And he only puts on the belt at 405 lbs.

No macho bullshit necessary. No equipment. No screaming. Just workman-like focus, good form, speed and depth. College and high school football strength coaches, this is what real squatting looks like! You can read more about Caleb on his website.

Monday, August 15, 2011

From the Vault: Melanie Roach 2008 Olympic Prep

Four years ago this week, I recorded Mel's Tuesday morning training session of cleans and clean pulls. From the vaults, August 16, 2007.

This cycle of training is just after her bronze medal performance at the 2007 Pan Am Games.

Beautiful Mobility

You used to be able to do this when you were 2. If you can do it when you are 20, you are ahead of the game.

This is the kind of mobility a weightlifter works toward. It is the kind of sagittal plane mobility that is part of good joint health and good back health. See how the shin and torso are parallel?

Squatting should be part of your movement vocabulary. Find someone to help you learn how to squat.

Start here and work your way into the frontal and transverse planes. Be patient. Be consistent.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Personal & Professional Satisfaction

"Thank you so much for all your help. I thought I was going to have to have surgery."

These are the words from a young patient I discharged yesterday. I saw him 6 times over an 8 week period. He came to me with osteolysis of the R AC joint. Pain with sleeping and any R UE activity. An avid bench presser and upper body lifter, I knew we had to change his mindset and exercise habits if he was going to heal.

He paid for every visit out of his own pocket.

I spent 1 hour with him each session. We talked about the importance of muscular balance and flexibility about the shoulder joint. I stressed that tight lats and pecs weren't going to be beneficial for long term shoulder health.

I taught him a variety of overhead and multi-planar moments, starting initially with basic flexion and limited ROM ab/adduction. Each week we progressed a bit, adding UE exercises in weight-bearing and dumbbell pressing movements. I never once used a modality. The first few visits I did a few joint mobs and some PNF work. The final 4 visits were all movement and lifting-based.

Who knew behind the neck pressing with a barbell could be so therapeutic? Not heavy at all; just quality movement about the shoulder girdle.

No surgery; no meds; no modalities. I just assisted the body in healing itself. More importantly, I earned the trust and respect of the patient in the process. The impetus was on him to follow my direction and take responsibility for doing the necessary work outside of the clinic--not too much, not too little; quality was key. I worked with him, not on him.

This is the type of practice I have dreamed of building for the last 10 years. Not high volume; not high tech. Just the thoughtful, progressive application of movement to alleviate musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lowering the Barbell

July has been super busy, so posting has taken a back seat. Hope to get back on track in August.

I recently hosted and helped teach a USA Weightlifting Level 1 Sports Performance Coach course at my new facility with my friend Derrick Crass. The course went well and 24 people learned a boatload of good information.

One of the issues that came up over the weekend was lowering the bar. This is a pet peeve of mine. Lowering the barbell from overhead or from the clean rack position is a skill everyone should know how to do.
  • You learn to move around and with the bar in a safe manner.
  • You gain strength and learn eccentric control.
  • You save wear and tear on the equipment.
  • You limit unnecessary noise in the facility.
  • You will look like you actually know what you are doing.
Back in the day before bumpers, everyone HAD to lower the iron weights and they even did it in competition with maximal weights. Showing control of the barbell was part of the deal and in my mind, should still be a part of the deal during training, with sub-maximal weights. This isn't the shot put.

In my mind, only real weightlifters have earned the right to consistently drop weights--even if you have nice bumpers and flooring. If you aren't lifting a weight equal to or greater than your bodyweight, you shouldn't be dropping that weight unless you have a complete brain cramp and need to dump the bar for safety. Derrick's rule is 50 kgs or more. I'm a little more strict. If you are doing power cleans or power snatches for multiple reps, come on, lower the bar for your next rep. These are not maximal weights.

Everyone needs to learn how to miss properly, but that doesn't mean you need to slam the barbell to the ground every rep. At least in my world, with my equipment.

One individual in the course quickly gained my attention by intentionally slamming 35 kg to the ground and exclaiming "I'm a beast" at the same time. Now if you are a strapping young man of 200+ lbs and you think you are a beast by throwing 77 lbs to the ground, you are sorely mistaken. Especially when the barbell is an $800 Eleiko barbell and the plates are $140 Hitechplates. I firmly told the young man that he would NEVER do that again in my facility and that he needed to learn to lower the barbell. Feel free to abuse your own equipment, but do not expect to abuse mine or the privilege of using mine.

If you are a healthy adult human being, male or female, and you slam down a bar with 2.5 kg, 5 kg or 10 kg training plates on it, you are not a "badass." You are a jackass--in my eyes, and in the eyes of many others. So keep that in mind. Especially if you don't own the equipment you are using.

How about showing the world what a good athlete you are by lifting and lowering the weights skillfully? Make yourself better by doing the little things right.

This morning I happened upon a classic video rant from Mark Rippetoe on the issue of lowering the bar. It seems Rip has a similar pet peeve and his discussion of the issue is priceless.

Platform: The Iron Plate Problem from stef bradford on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Stand Up Jump Down

As Fred Lowe says, "Ya gotta move greasy fast." Gravity waits for no one.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Squat, Push & Pull

Some of the tools I use to work the foundational movements of the sagittal plane. You don't have to get fancy. Use gravity. Keep it simple and find the implements that allow you to build the foundations of physical literacy.

The Dark Side

Eclectic Method - The Dark Side from Eclectic Method on Vimeo.

Enjoy this wonderful mashup. But don't let the Dark Side consume you. ;-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Time + Mother Nature + Patience + Hard Work

April 29, 2010

June 28, 2011

Do you guys have permits for those guns?

All kidding aside, tall athletes need time to grow into their bodies. Ryan Pierson is going into his sophomore year in college and is three years older than Nolan Berry, who is going into his junior year in high school. These guys need time for their natural maturation to occur. And they often need time to learn to appreciate the value of eating well and eating enough. Both are still teenagers, yet coaches sometimes expect them to be grown men. We cannot forget that these tall guys are still kids--just in really tall bodies.

My job is to support their growth processes by helping them develop good body awareness, good alignment, mobility and strength. I'm not here just to add mass and make them bigger monoliths. I'm here to make them resilient, adaptable athletes that are ready for the demands and the opportunities at the college level and beyond.

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Tool: Epson Movie Mate 62

Lights on.

Lights off.

Tried out this little guy today in the facility. Very nice! I saw an ad for the Epson Movie Mate 62 in a Best Buy Sunday circular and it caught my eye because it has a built in DVD player and speakers, as well as HDMI, VGA and component inputs. This makes it very versatile for presentations and use with athletes. If I just want to play a DVD, I can pop it in without a laptop or a DVD player.

The image from my home-made DVD of weightlifting videos was very nice in 4:3 aspect ratio, with the actual image width of about 10' and width of 8'. When I hooked up my iPad2, it went into widescreen format and videos shot in landscape orientation with the iPad2 were huge--probably right at 8' high and 15' in width. Of course you need a special Apple adapter to use the HDMI connection, but it is worth it.

This will be a great asset for the USAW Level 1 Course I'm teaching later this month and for future seminars and courses. And we just might have to have an Alien / Aliens movie night in the near future. Momma Alien's battle with Ripley will be pretty darn impressive.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Mover and A Shaker

Once again, Oregon strength coach Jimmy Radcliffe and his wife Dr. Janice Radcliffe imparted a bit of their wisdom and experience to the folks at GAIN 2011. I managed to capture Jimmy on my iPad2 video camera and then took this still shot with the iPad VideoPix app (99 cents).

How many DI head strength coaches walk the walk and talk the talk like Jimmy can? Very few if any. This guy is the ultimate blend of common sense, coaching, experience and sport science. Always humbling to watch; absolutely wonderful to listen to.

Monday, June 06, 2011

A New Era: Me 2.0.1

Sorry I've been so quiet this year. 2011 has been a quite a journey for me. I've learned so much about myself. Realized it was time to step out of my comfort zone. Time to grow.

It all started with a pair of Frye boots back in January.

It has culminated in my very own, new physical health & performance facility in June. Talk about whirlwind. I've put a few from my phone below. Nothing fancy here. A few select tools and about 1800 sq feet to:
  • build awareness
  • build alignment
  • get mobile
  • get strong
  • get fast
Never thought I'd be in this position, but here I am. Time for me to really put my passion, ideas and words into action. Still have so much to do with my website and the facility; one step at a time. But I am up and running. Open house and grand opening coming soon.

Thanks to all of you in the blogosphere for your support over the last 6 years--yes, my first post was August 12, 2005. Over the next 6 years I look forward to talking about my journey as a physical therapist and athletic development coach, as well as sharing ideas about what seems to work with my athletes and clients.

Iron Maven Physical Health & Performance
10772 Indian Head Industrial Blvd
St. Louis, MO 63132

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Philosophy of Strength and Health

The following exchange occurred this past weekend at a Crossfit Olympic Lifting Trainer Course in Springfield, MO.

"So what elements of Crossfit do you think are best for your athletes?"

"None of them. I don't do Crossfit. I just help teach the weightlifting stuff."

"Then what programming do you think is best?"

"I don't think there is one best way. I guess you could say I follow a 'functional training' mantra and do what I think is best for that athlete, at that time, given her/his needs. My philosophy is based on training movement, not muscles. There are some basic movements: squat, lunge, push, pull, rotate, walk, run, jump, crawl, throw, catch, hit, kick. The goal is to create basic musculoskeletal durability, physical competency and movement literacy in the context of sport and/or life."

I always find exchanges like this very interesting. So many people get caught up in the idea of one true way, or finding the one best certification/course. It's not just about finding the right exercises. It's about having a well-rounded, grounded philosophy and acquiring a great big tool box that you can use to address each situation, individually.

People often ask me how I got to where I am now. Well, here goes, in a nutshell. My current philosophy wasn't built in a day and it is constantly evolving.

1. My undergraduate studies gave me a terrific foundation in critical reading, research, basic biological science and how science works. I was and still am a geek. My major at the University of Chicago was HiPSS (History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science and Medicine). I chose to specialize in the biological sciences and then took courses in the history and philosophy of science and biology. Organic chemistry and biochemistry nearly killed me, but I made it.

During those 4 years, I also played volleyball and competed in track. I had no idea that what I was doing in the classroom would ever help me understand what I was doing on the court or in the discus ring.

2. My graduate studies (MS in Kinesiology) at the University of Illinois-Chicago gave me a great foundation in biomechanics, anatomy, motor control, physical education and exercise science. I enrolled in this master's program after I decided to apply to physical therapy school, as I needed a few more courses. It was my great fortune to have crusty old PhD/PE teachers and coaches like Warren Palmer, who did basic research on lipid metabolism, and Robert C. Hickson who did seminal research on concurrent strength and endurance training. I also took a great course in sport psychology from Gloria Balague. Palmer’s Experimental Exercise Physiology lab course had us replicate famous experiments on glycogen sparing and muscle hypertrophy—in rats. They were not my favorite, but they helped me realize I wanted to focus on applied human movement, and not get a PhD in physiology.

3. My graduate studies in the Washington University Program in Physical Therapy gave me the knowledge and tools to evaluate movement and to progressively apply movement/exercise to promote healing and function. Big skill acquired here: EVALUATE the situation and DOSE the EXERCISE--i.e. the basics of programming. Here I found my passion for movement science.

And during our graduation ceremony, Kathleen Dixon said something I carry with me to this day:

Before I go to that great plinth in the sky, it is my dream that every person visits his/her physical therapist every 6 months, just like they go to the dentist, to get a musculoskeletal health check up.

Those words were seared into my soul. But in Missouri in 1997, a physical therapist could not see an injured or healthy person without a physician's referral. That would all change with the new Missouri Physical Therapy Practice Act of 2000 and drive my vision for what would become Iron Maven Physical Health & Performance.

4. My job with Derrick Crass, PT at MECCAH in 1998 allowed me to work in an environment that had both orthopedic rehab and athletic development. Derrick was seriously ahead of his time with MECCAH. This was a critical time in my development. I learned about the sport of weightlifting from Derrick (a 1984 and 1988 Olympian in weightlifting) and I attended Vern Gambetta's Building and Rebuilding the Complete Athlete seminar.

These two things really opened my eyes. I came to the conclusion that basic rehabilitation and elite performance are actually on the same movement continuum; that they should be approached with the same philosophy, just with different levels of intensity. My tool box grew immensely during this time, as I was challenged to program for all different levels of patients and clients. I also earned my CSCS and USA Weightlifting credentials at this time.

At this point I began to realize most rehab professionals didn't appreciate how resilient the average human body can be when given the appropriate time and stimuli. This is exactly what elite athletes can do after bad injuries; the impossible can be possible. And I came to the conclusion that many PTs have a skewed view of normal human function, given their constant interaction with injured, unhealthy people. This fact, combined with their own lack of fitness, exercise and sport participation, leaves them with a very narrow view of normal human ability. If your own knee never bends past 90 degrees in a squat, why in the world would you think it might be good or necessary for anyone else to do so?

And what was I doing? I was learning to clean, snatch, front squat, push press, lunge, bound, sprint--getting into the best shape of my life, all without a R medial meniscus and the knee pain that plagued me during college volleyball.

5 Seven years of work in various rehab, wellness and sports performance settings gave me experience in working with variety of athletes/clients in all kinds of settings—homes, tiny treatment rooms and luxurious training facilities.

All of these experiences contributed to the foundation of my current philosophy. For sure I have been greatly influenced in sport science, coaching and rehab by Mike and Meg Stone, Shirley Sahrmann, Stuart McGill, Vern Gambetta, Joe Pryztula and Derrick Crass. I have benefited greatly by my time around some of the great American weightlifting coaches--Lou Demarco, Harvey Newton, Mike Burgener, John Thrush, John Garhammer, Ursula Garza--and observing their meticulous detail to technique and preparation. And all of these individuals have been gracious in sharing their successes along with their failures. But none have convinced me there is one true way. There are the needs of the athlete and the demands of the task—and you go from there.

To sum up, here are some things you might think about:

  • There is no one true way; no magic exercises. But there are exercises that are more valuable than others. Some may have no value at all to certain athletes. You must determine what is necessary to do and have a rationale for it. Don’t just copy blindly from others.
  • I'm a fan of the sport of weightlifting but I don't think cleans and snatches are the secret to athletic success. They can be an integral part of a program, at the right time.
  • Strength and power are optimized when they are developed in the context of sport skill; without context, they may be a hindrance.
  • Mobility and joint health must be included in regular programming, not as a separate injury prevention program. Good training creates mechanical resilience and mobility—that is injury prevention. Think "build up" not "break down." If an athlete is constantly battling injuries, there is something wrong with the programming--too much volume, intensity is too high, exercise selection is inappropriate, or technique is lacking.
  • Process and patience are paramount.
  • Programming is part art and part science. If you don't have a foundation of basic exercise science, get some. Then find someone to mentor you and guide you on art of programming. It ain't just reps and sets. And more isn't necessarily better.
  • Learn how to evaluate and assess. If you don't know where you are starting, how can you get to where you are going?

Good luck on your journey toward your own philosophy of strength and health.

Monday, April 04, 2011

What I Do

It is my life's passion and vocation to give young people the physical infrastructure & movement literacy to tolerate the forces/demands of their sport. And also mentor them as to what it means to be disciplined, to work with intensity, to carry themselves with dignity, and to make themselves--and those around them--the best they can be.

That's how I roll.

Sorry I have been away from the blog for a while. Significant developments are in the works. I hope to elaborate soon.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Great Flea Jumping Debate: Case Closed

In light of the previous post, I thought I'd share this interesting tidbit from NPR describing research into the jumping mechanics of fleas. Finally, after 40 years, it seems we have some type of answer as to how these things do it.

My favorite part of the NPR story is a quote from Henry Bennet-Clark, the guy behind the recently substantiated mechanism, on being right:
"Let's put it this way: It leaves me unsurprised," he says. "Because I always thought that the trochanter idea of Miriam Rothschild was as silly as the statement I'm about to make, which is, 'I'm about to jump off my chair by squeezing my buttocks.' "
Keep that last sentence in mind as you squat this week.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

That P-Chain Thang

"Muscle strength and flexibility characteristics of people displaying excessive medial knee displacement"- Bell et al ', Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation '07.

My colleague Joe P. brought the above study to my attention in his blog this week. Hmmm...maybe it's true that the secret to life is in the ankles and not the posterior chain.

You know me, I totally think a gluteus maximus is a terrible thing to waste. But I'm not about to get caught with my head up my you-know-what when it comes thinking I can tell what muscle is firing where and when by observation alone. It just isn't that simple. We cannot and should not reduce human movement and performance to "activation" of particular muscles.

The term posterior chain is interesting. I have heard that it originated from one particular person about 10 years ago, but who knows if that is accurate. Maybe the concept came out of ACL prevention research? Oh, the girls are quad dominant--whatever that means. If you search Pub Med, the NSCA journal database or Sport Discus, you won't find any research with the key words posterior chain. The term does not denote a true physical system--similar to the term "core." It is simply the idea that certain muscles on your back side work together.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:
The posterior chain is a group of muscles, tendons and ligaments on the posterior kinetic chain of the body. Examples of these muscles include the biceps femoris, gluteus maximus, erector spinae muscle group, trapezius, posterior deltoids, and so on.

The primary exercises for developing the posterior chain are the Olympic lifts, squat, good-mornings, deadlifts and hyperextension; the common denominator among these movements is an emphasis on hip extension.
For whatever reason, there's a tendency in this country at this time to think we have a dearth of hip extension strength (glutes and hams) and a wealth of knee extension strength (quads). That wasn't the case in 1998 when I first got into this profession. There was no big emphasis on hip extension. Somehow, somewhere, the emphasis changed from triple extension to emphasis on hip extension and this new thing emerged: the posterior chain. And what great timing it was, because suddenly we had become a nation of quad dominant, dysfunctional people, plagued by gluteal amnesia.

Welcome to 2011, where the key to athletic success and physical health is to strengthen the posterior chain. Training, athleticism and fitness have been reduced to one thing for many: strength or lack of strength at hip. Yes, I know about Vladamir Janda and his "Lower Crossed Syndrome" and his theories that many dysfunctional movement patterns are caused by a lack of hip extension strength. But as the study above points out, that might not always be the case. Causality can be tricky, especially when dealing with complex systems in the human body. Movement is more than meets the eye.

The kinetic chain includes the foot, ankle and knee. Without the musculature about the foot, ankle and knee, the hip is worthless. Strength, power and agility are about coordination and force production / attenuation via interaction with the ground. All ground-based movement is the result of a complex interaction of many systems, not just the hip. Instead of focusing on the hip down, I'd encourage you to think about force production from the ground up. Instead of focusing on strength, focus on skill, stiffness, reflexes, coordination and effective use of ground-reaction forces. Muscles are nothing without the nervous system and gravity.

By all means, squat til' ya drop. Live in The Big House. But keep the big picture in mind.

Hip extension should be a force to be reckoned with, but you are kidding yourself if you reduce athleticism, movement skill and power to 1) strength about 2) the hip. It's easy, tempting and even a little sexy to focus on such a prominent aspect of human physicality, right? And in the current environment you might even sound like you know what you are talking about if you can tell people you train the posterior chain because you do "x" type of squats, activating those glutes, hams and lats. But do you really know that? Got the research data to back it up or are you just parroting something you heard someone else say?

Don't let yourself get caught up in the hype terms like posterior chain or quad dominance. These are terms of convenience, not causality, when it comes to human movement. They are more style than substance. In reality, the most accurate descriptors of movement dysfunction or elite performance are much more complex. The remedy to a movement problem might be a simple manual or verbal cue, but the underlying processes and mechanics you are affecting are likely not so simple.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Takano Athletics Interviews

Bob Takano has a great collection of interviews with weightlifting coaches, athletes and researchers, including John Garhammar, Ph.D, Harvey Newton, Mike Burgener, John Thrush and Jim Schmitz. It has been my great honor to know and learn from each of these individuals.

If you'd like to hear about some of the history of the sport in the US and reflections on weightlifting and strength & conditioning today, take the time to listen. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience here.

Two Great Posts by Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta has two great posts that everyone should read, More Than Exercise and Prehab: A Flawed Concept.

I cannot say it any better than Vern. These two topics are close to my heart. Programming is art and science, trial and error, and wisdom over time. It is not simply a commodity to be sold in the gym or over the internet and dished out to athletes or clients. I am passionate about that. Sometimes to a fault.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Images from DC

The last 72 hours have been truly wonderful. Yes, it is cold and my feet ache. But I don't care. Every American should have the opportunity to visit DC. Take pride in and ownership of our history.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Washington DC

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Test Pic

C3PO gets his push press on.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tocar y Luchar (To Play and To Fight)

This is one of the most beautiful and inspiring things I have ever seen. It gives me hope and cleanses my palate after the drama of my week. We could learn so much from the people and the process of the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra Project. We have it all wrong here in the US when it comes to youth and sport. We don't nurture and mentor. We don't teach and inspire discipline, character and hard work. We don't value the precious gifts of play and love of the game. We aren't patient with those who may need a little extra time to develop. We don't value the process of deliberate practice and mastery of fundamentals.

We provide "exposure" and sponsorship. We exploit physical attributes and early maturation of young people for the financial benefit and notoriety of the adult-run organizations that trot them around the country. We value game skill specialization, early competition, pushing young bodies to their limit, rather than build general physical foundations and let the skills grow and flow out of a sturdy musculoskeletal infrastructure.

Market forces dictate value and kids become commodities. Not survival of the fittest, but survival of the lucky.

The inertia of the business of youth sport is great. But I am happy to be a part of the struggle against it. Tocar y Luchar.

My Coach Sucks

Ah, today's youth. Not all of them. But this type of attitude is common.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Ultimate Coaching Challenge

Those Aussies. Ahead of just about everyone in the application and integration of sport science into coaching. They seem to get it.

I cannot help but see speech therapist Lionel Logue as one of these progressive Aussie coaches. Mr. Logue was the speech therapist to King George VI. His relationship with George is the subject of the movie The King's Speech. If you haven't seen this movie, go see it. It is a beautiful story of the ultimate clinician/coach in action--the combining of practical experience with a keen insight into human physiology and psychology. It is a story of someone who has the will and perseverance to do what the other "experts" of his time will not and cannot do. Lionel knows there are no short-cuts, no magical cures; just hard work and trust in the process. And that failure really isn't an option.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

A Very Delightful History of Weightlifting

Thanks to Mark Canella of Columbus Weightlifting for posting the link to this on GoHeavy! And I really like the Bodytribe appreciation for the history of physical culture and their celebration of strength athletics. Good stuff.

Friday, January 07, 2011


I relish the opportunity to mentor others, whether they are athletes or coaches. You cannot learn everything in school. And you certainly cannot learn it all in weekend seminars. It takes time.

It takes independent study, along with dialogue and guidance from someone who has experience and a coaching eye. It is not just about parroting verbal cues and putting up random sets and reps up on the board. It is about knowing what at you are doing and why.

Right now I am formally mentoring two individuals. I really enjoy this type of work and interaction. I have to reflect on my processes and methods and this ultimately makes me better at what I do.